Accelerating membership innovation

Let’s strengthen organizations, raise more money and scale up impact by speeding up how we learn about and position membership programs. 

A membership innovation community of practice will identify and speed understanding of what’s working, best practices and innovation across a broad range of communications, engagement, fundraising, and organizing activities in nonprofits, journalism, political campaigns and social-good business.


Don’t want all the background? Jump to project goals and process.

Comments? Feedback? Suggestions? Send an email or contact us.


We believe membership – people joining, investing in, learning from, and acting in partnership with others – is (or could be) a strong framework for scaling deep and sustainable activism and healthier organizations. This brief provides a path towards testing that idea.

Membership is critical to sustaining relevance, revenue and sustainability.

Membership has a long, global history. Groups like the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, National Geographic, Consumers Union and League of Women Voters are membership based.

Labor unions are membership-driven as are cooperatives (local grocery co-ops, for example, and outdoor stores like REI in the United States and MEC in Canada).

Community groups (Rotary Club, garden clubs) and trade associations are also membership based. And millions of people become members associations like the American Association of Retired Persons People every year.

People become members by investing money and time. In many cases, people receive career guidance, networking, volunteer opportunities, discounted products, invitations to events and more.


What is membership? For the purposes of this brief, we view membership as having three parts:

  1. People investing in an organization.
  2. An organization investing in people.
  3. A framework that binds together the interests of people and an organization.

Why do people become members of an organization? The simplest reason: because they’re asked. Usually by people they know. Most members enter an organization with at least one active relationship.

Members receive access to services and benefits for the time, money and personal capital they offer groups. Members are often given opportunities to meet, interact and learn from one another. People also learn and improve skills, take on volunteer roles and eventually become leaders. In many advocacy organizations, membership offers people an opportunity to directly engage with others and the organization in actions around a shared mission or vision for the world.

Let’s assume there’s some value (or at least a bit of accuracy) in the above definition of membership, it’s historical presence and why people put their hard-earned money and time into an organization as a member.

It’s worth noting that the public service journalism sector is looking to membership as a path towards revenue growth and sustainability as well as knowledge and service. The Membership Puzzle Project is one example of that sector’s search for stronger member-driven skills and projects.

The Problem

Today, nonprofits (both advocacy and community service groups), associations and journalism/media organizations (nonprofit and for-profit) use a variety of membership models to secure direct and indirect support.

Membership programs are usually built around and optimized for fundraising. People are asked for a minimal amount of time – a $30 donation, a Facebook follow, an email address. They receive a thank you (hopefully). They are passed into the hands of staff running fundraising and advocacy programs.

Membership programs are typically separate from organizing and communications. Software/CRMs may track donations and email opens. But software only does what the people using it ask. Organizations do little to build member relationships (or, in other words, do little to invest in the needs of members). People are either bombarded by messaging in their inboxes and social media feeds. Or receive little at all.

Everyone is concerned about impact. Many people want to work with others to have a direct impact. People in are looking for opportunities to invest not just their money but their time, skills and experience. They’re looking for anchors – places to hook their attention, build relationships, learn more and do good.

Meanwhile, organizations are dealing with solving transactional problems like high membership growth costs and/or churn. Most members would be surprised to learn that the most important calculation of their relationship is aquisition cost and lifetime value. The constant need to replace members creates an endless search for new people, new lists, new audiences – attention taken away from deepening and sustaining membership.

People are looking for consistency and impact are hearing about crises and immediate needs. It gets attention. But we lose attention, tune out, and move on to another crisis.

Worse, people are losing faith in nonprofit organizations. It’s a problem for the causes and communities in which we work who are not consistently served by a committed group of supporters.

Thousands of nonprofit organizations have decades of data about membership programs. Yet, too often, membership teams are sidelined to focus on marginal list growth strategies. Conversations about innovation, sustainability, scale and value TO members get set aside.

We need to rethink what membership can be. It’s time to share lessons, test outside the box, build partnerships across sectors (and inside organizations).

Creating Modern Membership Models

Now is the time to look at new membership models. Membership teams and their partners across the organization, nonprofit and NGO leaders, and even members themselves need new and empowering membership models that can engage and even excite people.

To get there, the sector needs testing and learning, networking and training, and many more opportunities to unleash creativity.

We believe that networks of people working in and around membership programs (everyone from membership teams to organizing, volunteering, fundraising and other roles) will create stronger organizations – and more powerful outcomes – with opportunities and resources to more rapidly learn, test and master membership programming across their organizations, campaigns and teams.

Why Now?

This is a time of declining trust in institutions. And it’s not just government. NGOs, nonprofits and even small orgs face questions from constituents and potential supporters about finances, diversity, leadership, sexual harassment and more. Media and news organizations rely on reader (and source) trust to stay in business.

Membership programs invite and build trust by increasing transparency and direct investment in an organization’s mission, values and operation.

More people than ever are engaging in advocacy and political campaigns as volunteers, activists and leaders. Nonprofit organizations can better learn from organizing campaigns – even those under their own roof – to build stronger membershp programs.

Sustainable funding remains critical to the long-term health of nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are raising money and figuring out monthly donor programs but aren’t innovating membership in ways that deepens affiliation to sustain themselves for long time and grow leaders.

Meanwhile, journalism organizations and others are looking towards advocacy and struggling to find/implement membership models and practices.

There is a place for renewed, revitalized and re-imagined membership in nonprofit advocacy and organizations. Some of this work is already happening in public service journalism through the efforts of The Membership Puzzle, the Coral Project, Open News and others. These projects demonstrate the value that testing and networking around membership and engagement bring to communities of practitioners.

We envision a project that advances membership innovation in nonprofits, collaborates with other sectors and ongoing projects to share learning, and makes it possible for far more people to become more sustainably engaged in social good and community change.

Goals of this project

Here’s what we believe this work can accomplish:

Revitalize the membership field so that a wider range of organizations and campaigns can reach more people, engage people more efficiently and sustainably, and promote growth of leadership, revenue and program innovation.

Build a learning community of people working in and around membership. This may include people in nonprofits, NGOs, advocacy groups, political campaigns and social movements, associations, trade groups and labor unions, journalism and community media and more.

Rapidly share data and resources needed to test membership and related programs in fundraising, organizing, mobilization, volunteering and leadership.

Identify and assess a variety of new and existing membership models that organizations, funders, consultants and members can apply, learn from, test and iterate upon.

Create a culture of measurement, testing, reporting, iteration and transparency that supports broader membership program innovation.

Process

What would doing this actually look like? Here’s an idea:

Create a network through baseline research and reporting.
  • Survey a broad cross-section of people involved in members
  • Get direct and subjective feedback on
    • What’s working and what’s not?
    • Who’s doing good, great, creative work and thinking in membership?
  • Bring subset to a kick-off meeting/event/conference where diverse group meets, networks, shares learning, creates plans for next steps in community
  • Identify what needs to be measured/evaluated for project impact and success.
Continue growing and sustaining a network of membership innovators and leaders.
  • Online/offline community (could range from just email list/facebook group to one or more in person events in different locations)
  • Identify need for and create training materials
Identify and showcase membership innovation and testing in the wild.
  • Membership Innovation Showcase and/or Membership impact guide. Read more.

Inspiration / Background / More Reading

Who’s thinking about this now? We’ll continue updating this list as we find/receive ideas.


Speed up membership innovation

Compact Flash photo via JD Hancock, Flickr. CC 2.0.

Thinking about Digital Strategy and Teams

I’ve had several conversations the past few weeks about digital strategy and teams in nonprofits and media startups. They all come back to culture, teams, fundraising and the idea of digital-first organizations. Fascinating and fun topics but curious to be seeing this pop up now. Seems like the nonprofit community hasn’t talked much about digital teams recently – or not as much as five or ten years ago.

Then a great question popped up on the Progressive Exchange email list. Basically, how do we structure our digital team as we grow and evolve. People wrestling with this. It’s a huge issue impacting strategy, funding, leadership, vision and more. I threw together some ideas and resources on the question. How are you answering (or asking) the question these days?

QUESTION

We have a few staff who work on some aspect of digital but it’s not centralized so we lack in strategy and structure.

How do other nonprofits successfully structure digital teams. Are these teams stand-alone or are they housed under other departments? If housed in another department, which department makes the most sense?

IDEAS

Digital is in every role in the organization, not just a few people easily pulled into a single team. Everyone and every role can, will, needs to understand digital works.

What that means, for example, is that today digital tools/communications gives people a computer in the palm of their hand. It empowers them to be super organizers (P2P texting), fundraisers (P2P fundraising / online donations), lead their own campaigns (volunteers that lead parts of your network) and take on new roles (citizen journalism, citizen science, blogging, sharing on social media, etc.).

This changes everything about the role of the organization, its staff, and which assets of the group are valuable.

In practice, this looks different at different organizations.

Digital first leadership

What often matters most in a successful transformation is digital-first leadership. That could be an executive director who comes straight out of digital campaigning, organizing, or fundraising. Someone who gets networks, iteration, engagement, people power…can speak tech or at least not get lost in the jargon.

But in reality most execs are there to raise money, inspire, manage, set a big vision and give everyone else the tools to implement it. So a director doesn’t need to be steeped in digital so much as aware/supportive and know what to hire for while being able to let people do the work they were hired to do.

This is, in part, why you’ll see “digital director” roles. Where it works is where this role is someone with a meaningful guidance position. Access to and input on high level org, program, organizing, fundraising strategy. And some responsibility for managing digital leadership within teams. It’s going to depend on overall structure in an org. There is no one size fits all solution.

Do you need a digital department?

Where it seems most likely to get messy is when there is a digital department that sits next to a fundraising department, an organizing department, a tech department, an HR department, etc. (or teams). Then you get into questions/debates about what’s digital?

Fundraising and organizing are very digital. Tech is digital. Things quickly become turfy, siloed, easily contentious. Meanwhile you’re struggling to put the interests/needs of the audience/members/supporters first.

I have some other notes on the sort of membership and engagement strategy organizations could/should aim for if they really want to empower people to create change and sustain relationships with a “digital first” organization. But that’s for another day.

Depending on timeline and resources, it could be super helpful to talk to people building / running digital strategy and teams in digital first organizations – groups that started online or groups that have been making a transition to digital first.

Some ideas of who to talk to (not all inclusive – just some orgs I know well, know how they approach digital, know leadership, know they’ve been through digital transition, have seen in action recently, etc.):

SumOfUs
Greenpeace UK
Australian Youth Climate Coalition
Global Zero
Dogwood
Rainforest Action Network
Common Cause
The Washington Bus

RESOURCES

Nowhere near an all-inclusive list. Just what comes to mind first. All help thinking about digital teams though some are more focused on org strategy.

Digital Teams Report (2018)
NetChange Consulting

What makes nonprofit digital teams successful today? (article based on Digital Teams Report)
Jason Mogus & Austen Levihn-Coon, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Digital is a Strategy, Not Just Random Tactics (2018)
Ryann Miller, Charity Village

Understanding Digital Strategy (2018)
Harvard Business Review, 30 minute HBR podcast interview w/ Sunil Gupta, business professor and author of Driving Digital Strategy

Developing a Strategy for the Digital World (2018)
Harvard Business Review, Interview w/ Sunil Gupta

The Digital Plan (2018)
The Digital Plan book project is led by Brad Schenk who helped transform digital strategy/team at Rainforest Action Network.

Five models of digital teams (2017)
Jason Mogus, NetChange Consulting

Detangling Digital (2018)
Sam Dorman and Chris Zezza, Mobilisation Lab

Becoming a Digital First Organization (2016)
Alice Hendricks & Misty McLaughlin, NTEN

What Digital Really Means (2015)
Karel Dörner and David Edelman, McKinsey

Product teams: The next wave of digital for NGOs? (2015)
Sam Dorman, Mobilisation Lab

How to Build a High-Performing Digital Team (2013)
Perry Hewitt, Harvard Business Review

Five Dysfunctions of a Digital Team (2011…but still useful)
Jason Mogus, Michael Silberman & Christopher Roy, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Why not say “I don’t know”?

Faking Cultural Literacy in last Sunday’s New York Times argues that social media (and online, omnipresent, instant information in general) has allowed everyone to have an opinion about everything. It’s worth a read but it misses the point.

A bunch of tabs
A bunch of open tabs. Illustration by Jennifer Daniel, New York Times.

American culture has long frowned on one saying “I don’t know.” To admit ignorance (regardless of source) is to admit weakness. It is to say to your conversation partner that they know more than you do (and must therefore be smarter, better educated, have better parents, read more, have a healthier diet, etc.).

Better to say something, anything, and fake it than perhaps question and learn from one another.

Case in point: I’ve been reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah. There is a passage in which the main character who has come to the US from her native Nigeria to study at a university ruminates on the classroom experience:

School in America was easy, assignments sent in by e-mail, classrooms air-conditioned, professors willing to give makeup tests. But she was uncomfortable with what the professors called “participation,” and did not see why it should be part of the final grade; it merely made students talk and talk, class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words. It had to be that Americans were taught, from elementary school, to always say something in class, no matter what. And so she sat stiff-tongued, surrounded by students who were all folded easily on their seats, all flush with knowledge, not of the subject of the classes, but of how to be in the classes. They never said “I don’t know.” They said, instead, “I’m not sure,” which did not give any information but still suggested the possibility of knowledge.

We’re trained early on to have SOMETHING to say. ANYTHING. You don’t look smart (which is 90% of the battle) by quietly thinking things through. Nobody wants to hear of their child waxing philosophic. Leaders don’t hold firm to the gray area.

Social media and online information has not launched a wave of shallow knowledge—it’s always been there. Social media makes it more apparent, however. It also makes it easier to find support for our views without engaging in critical thinking or questioning our assumptions.

As advocates and social change campaigners we should be constantly aware of our role in finding, analyzing and sharing information. And recognize that most of us have an opinion whether we have knowledge or not.

We change policy by, in part, winning arguments but debate means listening and critiquing as much as it does espousing a viewpoint.

Engage, question, listen, think and respond. Don’t just make a point—create opportunity for conversation with your audience.

Listening to the Obama campaign’s digital team: Four ways to strengthen organizational culture

Last week I was fortunate to be part of two discussions in one day about digital teams in big organizations. Instead of talking about the latest big win (and one had a huge win) or cutting edge campaign, both conversations veered towards organizational culture issues. One team addressed culture concerns head on, knowing it makes a difference in digital success. The other sees problems but is stuck, unable to steer, even a bit, the culture issues that weigh down the team.

One conversation was with a key member of the digital team at a national nonprofit advocacy group. The digital team has struggled for a while as the group has tried to figure out where digital fits in the organization. As we talked – and as I reflected on the next conversation – it became obvious that structure (and continual “restructuring”) wasn’t the whole story.

The second discussion happened at an event that included a panel of four key members of the Obama campaign’s digital team, including CTO Harper Reed.

Obama digital team leaders speak at Galvanize in Denver. March 7, 2013.
Obama digital team leaders speak at Galvanize in Denver. March 7, 2013.

I expected this panel to focus on how they pulled the products and technology together. The event was organized by a start-up incubator so it would probably touch on the lessons that iterative design, open source development, and relying on a cloud application servers might offer entrepreneurs.

Continue reading “Listening to the Obama campaign’s digital team: Four ways to strengthen organizational culture”

Your leadership elephant

Elephant
Is missing technology leadership in your organization shouting at you? The elephant says it is.

Chances are your organization doesn’t have people in senior leadership roles with experience in digital campaigning, technology development, or online movement building. No high-level ability to analyze and manage the relationship between technology and programmatic outcomes may be one of the greatest obstacles to organizational growth and success today. And too few are talking about it. Get your board and managers together and chances that visionary and capable leaders comfortable with technology are the elephant in the room.

Yesterday, NARAL Pro-Choice America announced that Ilyse Hogue will become its next president. Ms. Hogue brings deep campaigning experience and, notably, a background in meshing online and field systems to build movements, raise money, and change politics. I don’t know exactly why NARAL made this choice but I suspect that online experience played a role.

Technology is Pervasive

If you work with technology at all you likely are (or have been) overwhelmed by the complexity and variety of ways to solve every problem. Web and social media metrics, application development, video production, and even web design are just a few of nonprofit tech subjects that are continually evolving yet increasingly basic to digital advocacy and marketing. Continue reading “Your leadership elephant”

The virtues of getting your butt kicked: Barack Obama’s basketball game

Michael Lewis covers a lot of ground in his October Vanity Fair profile of Barack Obama, from Congressional gridlock to nuclear reactor meltdowns to a downed F-15 over Libya. But the heart of Lewis’ piece is the President’s regular basketball game. The other guys on the court – everyone but Obama – are former college players. They’re tall and fast. Most are twenty years younger than Obama.

As a player on the other team, who must have outweighed Obama by a hundred pounds, backed the president of the United States down and knocked the crap out of him, all for the sake of a single layup, I leaned over to the former Florida State point guard.

“No one seems to be taking it easy on him,” I said.

“If you take it easy on him, you’re not invited back,” he explained.

It turns out that Obama, despite his age and his lack of competitive college (or even high school) hoops experience, is good enough to be useful to his team, passing well and playing smart.

But what’s really remarkable to me is the game itself. This is a guy, as Lewis puts it, who could “find a perfectly respectable game with his equals in which he could shoot and score and star.” Instead, Obama seeks out this “ridiculously challenging” game. He goes out of his way to surround himself with people he knows can outplay, out-hustle, and out-muscle him. The president is extremely competitive, and he plays to win, but he also wants to be pushed and stretched and challenged.

A players hire A+ players, as the saying goes, and B players hire C players.

And people who consistently exercise great leadership know that you only get better when you stretch and take risks, and that building great teams is as much about surrounding yourself with people who are really good at what they do – even better than you – as it is about whatever talent and drive you might bring to the table.

(White House photo via Creative Commons)

Jacob Smith is the co-author of The Nimble Nonprofit: An Unconventional Guide to Sustaining and Growing Your Nonprofit, the former mayor of Golden, Colorado, and a nonprofit consultant.

How to Give Feedback to Your Employees: Nine Tips

This usually isn’t the best way to offer feedback to your staff.
In our research on nonprofit organizations, we found that more nonprofit staffers complained about the weak management skills of their executive directors and supervisors than about any other problem.

Among the most critical but under-developed skills: feedback-giving. Here is some straightforward advice:

1) Actually give feedback to your staffers. The alternatives (passive-aggressive outbursts, complaining about one staffer to other staffers, abruptly firing them, wishing you had the gumption to abruptly fire them) all suck.

2) Provide feedback frequently. The annual evaluation has its place, but it’s a poor substitute for regular feedback throughout the year.

3) Assume she was acting in good faith with good intentions. Assume her motives were all spot-on, in other words, and focus instead on her words and actions.

4) It’s often helpful to start by asking your employee to talk through what happened, what she did and why, and how she would evaluate her own performance (whether you are talking about a specific event or performance over the course of some time period). It gives her a chance to set the tone and she may have already identified some of the successes and critiques you had planned to raise. You might even shift your view on her performance if you know more about what she did and why.

5) Be direct and clear when providing feedback on the things she did that you liked and on the things she might (or should) have done differently. Even managers who do a good job of providing regular feedback often stumble on this point, just as many people often stumble when communicating with board members, friends, lovers, spouses, and kids. You have to be clear about what worked and what didn’t if you expect your staffer to remain motivated and improve her performance.

6) But don’t be a jerk about it! “Direct and clear” doesn’t mean patronizing, insensitive, or rude.

7) Offer very clear direction on what she might do differently next time, on what lessons to draw from the experience, and on how to improve. If you don’t do this, and she doesn’t improve, her subsequent underperformance is on you.

8) If you are trying to foster a culture of innovation you have to reward people for taking risks. This doesn’t mean that you should celebrate every risk someone takes; if you establish clear boundaries and expectations for risk-taking, you can evaluate your staff based on how well they operated within those limitations. But if your team believes they’ll get chastised when risks they take don’t pan out, you’ll be encouraging risk-aversion rather than risk-tolerance. Likewise, if you find ways to reward your team for taking smart risks even when they don’t work out, you’ll incentivize the innovative culture you are after.

9) Finally, you may have to work hard to avoid making people feel defensive when initiative a feedback interaction. Part of managing this is ensuring that you are calling out the good and the bad throughout your frequent feedback interactions (and making a point of calling out the good more often is usually pretty helpful). Part of tackling this is clearly establishing the feedback process in your organization as a frequent learning loop. Every feedback interaction is an opportunity for someone on your team to figure out how to improve their performance and for you to learn more about what they need from you to excel in their work. And part of sidestepping someone’s instinctive defensiveness is getting to know them well enough to figure out how – with each of your direct reports – to create the right space for a productive feedback interaction.

These tips are easier to write down in a blog post than they are to execute, but none are especially difficult if you commit to making productive feedback interactions an important part of your organizational culture.

(Photo by Flickr user Orange Steeler.)

Extraordinary Teams

Inc. published a nice blog post yesterday on the “7 Habits of Extraordinary Teams.” It’s an obvious play on Stephen Covy’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” (both of which are worthwhile reads, by the way).

One thing I like about the post: the predictable but still critically important emphasis on the ways in which strong teams collaborate and support each other. It seems pretty obvious, but in the absence of real trust and effective communication among team members, it’s pretty tough for a group of folks to gel (and consequently kick ass).

I do have some quibbles with his list. For instance, while I agree that clear goals are critical I’m not convinced that those goals must necessarily be quantifiable. Similarly, while clear roles are really important, part of what elevates teams from mediocre or even good up to greatness is an enthusiasm for stepping up wherever the needs might lie. Yes, it’s critical that each individual know her role, but that has to be coupled with an ownership – by every individual – over the entire team effort and a willingness to fill in whatever holes and to grab whatever opportunities present themselves.

Those are just quibbles, in any case. However obvious the list may seem, dysfunctional teams are at least as common as the strong ones, so there’s clearly a lot of work to do (obvious or not).

Photo by Flickr user dearbarbie.

Cultivating Conflict

I think we often do internal organizational conflict wrong. Plenty of nonprofit folks and organizations actively avoid conflict. Nonprofits collaborate, we don’t fight. It just feels wrong, so we do what we can to avoid it.

Or we fight in the wrong ways about the wrong things.

What we often don’t do is deliberately cultivate and encourage conflict, yet conflict is actually healthy and important, I think. That’s where teams really push each other, challenging each other’s assumptions, pushing back against each other’s ideas, probing for the flaws and the opportunities. Conflict, when done right, creates a “productive range of distress,” to use Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky’s term from Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. The challenge isn’t to sterilize or repress conflict out of our office environments but to make sure we contain it and shape it so that it really does serve those sorts of productive purposes.

I don’t claim any expertise here, but I have noticed a few things that seem to help contain and shape it in useful ways:

  • The discussion is respectful even if heated … personal critiques and attacks usually aren’t helpful.
  • Establishing some ground rules about decorum. I don’t know that it matters much what those ground rules are, so long as the group feels some ownership over them and so long as they are consistently enforced.
  • Someone playing the role of facilitator, which might be the ED, or it might rotate, or with some other arrangement, but someone who’s job it is to make sure everyone has a chance to contribute, to pull back the tension if it climbs too high or push the conversation forward if it starts to stall.

How does your organization manage conflict? Does it ever cultivate conflict, and if so, how? How well does it work?

(Photo by Flickr user iansand).

Watching the Game Film (for Nonprofits)

This post was originally published on Amy Sample Ward’s terrific nonprofit technology blog earlier this week.

For professional football players, the six days between games are jammed with practice, gym workouts, and travel. They also include time spent watching the film from the previous game, play by play, evaluating, learning, and preparing for the next game. I don’t know as much about other sports, but I’m guessing that professional basketball, hockey, baseball and other players have similar routines during their seasons.

It’s true that for pro athletes, everything they do during the week amounts to preparation for game day. Game day performance is what matters. It’s also true that many pro athletes are supported by extensive coaching staffs, sophisticated video recordings, and powerful analytic tools to help them understand what they did and how they might improve.

But a lot of what nonprofit folks do is similarly performance-oriented: every time you present on a panel at a conference, every time you pitch a prospective donor or funder, every time you talk to a reporter. You prepare (or not), and then you perform well (or not). And even without the same kind of evaluation and training resources at our disposal, we still have tools and capacity to carefully evaluate our performance and plug it in to fast-cycle feedback loops so we can continuously improve. Nearly every nonprofit has a video camera now, tripods are cheap, and it’s easy to set up to record right before you begin your presentation. When you talk with reporters, it’s easy to evaluate the print story or broadcast (not just reviewing it, which everyone already does, but studying it to figure out what you did well and what your screwed up). You may not have someone with you on every funder pitch, but it’s not hard to arrange at least some of those conversations with a colleague who won’t do too much talking during the meeting, so someone else can pay more attention to how well you do. For much of what you do, you can figure out ways to intentionally review your performance, identify what you did well and what you need to work on, and then craft a strategy for improving.

Incidentally, it’s the coaches who really immerse themselves in the film after every game, studying the game film on the flight home or first thing Monday morning, grading every player on every play, and then reviewing the films with the players. What if the more senior folks in your organization were explicitly responsible for coaching the newer members of the team? And what if their job evaluation was based partly on how effectively they are at coaching the more junior folks?

An organizational culture that emphasizes evaluation, feedback loops, learning, and intention improvement doesn’t happen by accident. For most nonprofit folks, the limitation isn’t about resources but about how serious they are about improving.

(Photo credit: Flickr rburtzel)